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Escom, Committee lock horns over project funds

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Werani Chilenga

By Wezzie Gausi:

The Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources have clashed over the use of funds under the Malawi Electrification Access Programme (Meap).

Chairperson of the committee Werani Chilenga claims that the company has diverted funds for the project to clear its backlog of applications for electricity connections.

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He said this when Escom officials appeared before his committee at Parliament this week. Escom CEO Kamkwamba Kumwenda did not attend the meeting.

Chilenga accused the company of diverting the funds which were meant to connect 300, 000 households for free, implement the Mozambique interconnector project and buy transformers.

“What Escom is doing is not what Parliament approved. Imagine, Escom is taking funds meant for other things, clearing the backlog of connections when customers already paid for the service.

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“What is happening is uncalled for, and we have sent them back to revisit the project agreement and report back to us. When we pass bills in Parliament, it is our duty to see to it that they are implemented exactly as agreed,” Chilenga said.

But Kamkwamba disputed Chilenga’s statement that the project is for free.

“According to the Project Appraisal Connection Policy, clause 32, customers are supposed to make a financial contribution of $34. This represents a 31 percent connection fee for drop line and 12 percent of connection cost for a one pole service.

“Additionally, the appraisal states that the customer must pay $16 dollars for service fee and $8 dollars for inspection fee,” Kamkwamba said.

He further said: “So it’s not true that the Meap connections are 100 percent free. If the committee has an alternative agreement, let them make it available to us accordingly. Otherwise, such comments are misleading.

“Escom is committed to make sure that it delivers on its mandate and will not be deterred by opposition forces,” he said.

Principal Secretary for Energy Alfonso Chikuni said he was not aware that Escom was diverting Meap funds.

Chikuni said the ministry would follow up on the project design document and the claim that funds were being diverted.

“Well, if what the committee is saying is true, then we have a serious problem. Of course I am new to the ministry but this has given me interest to look for the project documents to see how the money was meant to be used,” Chikuni said.

In 2019, the National Assembly approved the $150 million World Bank loan to implement Meap as part of the implementation modalities for the National Energy Policy of 2018.

The funds were meant to increase electricity access from 11 to 30 percent by 2030. Malawi is one of the countries in the world with the lowest electricity connections.

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